Politik on Chris Bishop

Richard Harman writes at Politik:

came into Parliament as a National list MP in 2014 with what you might call form. …

In other words he had precisely the sort of CV that cynics around Parliament believe means its owner is inevitably headed for a fall.

But it hasn’t happened.

Instead he has confounded his critics to the point where his name appeared last year on virtually every media shortlist as backbencher of the year.

Chris has been very active in all the ways you want an MP to be.

  • Hugely active in the Hutt community where he is a List MP
  • Active legislator with one member’s bill drawn from the ballot and has helped write bills for several other MPs
  • Frequent speaker in parliamentary debates
  • Active participant in select committees

Ask him what will matter this year and he will single out two particular areas; neither of them necessarily headline makers.

His first pick is the debate about planning reform which to a certain extent means the Resource Management Act reforms but more probably will eventually centre on the way politicians react to whatever recommendations the Productivity Commission comes up with as it examines the totality of planning legislation.

“I think this is going to be bit edgy this year,” he says.

“It sounds quite boring but it’s actually right at the hard edge of some of the economic and social debate around inequality and poverty and around housing affordability.”

Like Finance Minister Bill English he has noticed what appears to be a shift in Labour’s position indicated by an Op-Ed piece in the “NZ Herald” co- authored by Phil Twyford and NZ Initiative Director, Oliver Hartwich which essentially argued for a freeing up of urban boundaries.

“I think in terms of that battle over do we need to free up more land, do we need to liberalise planning laws— the things that we’ve been saying for a while.

“I think we’ve won that battle and the Labour Party now concedes that and so now the issue will be where that leads this year and next year.”

And in a similar vein he sees how Labour reacts to the TPP as being a key political issue this year.

“One of the big dividing lines in New Zealand politics at the moment is peoples’ attitudes to the outside world.

“We have been very resolutely focussed on the idea of an open globally competitive confident market economy.

“For 30 years there’s been a consensus that our future is as a trading nation believing that you can’t insulate yourself from the rest of the world.

“But now if you look at Labour – it looks like they are trying to have a bob each way.

“I’m not quite sure where they will go and I think that will be one of the big questions this year.”

Labour have seen sense on the costs of planning laws. Are they going to do the same on TPP, or will they cotinue to rail against an agreement that the World Bank says will grow our GDP by around 3.5%.

He describes himself as a social liberal and an economic liberal with the word liberal meaning slightly different things in each description.

My favourite type of MP 🙂

Though he is the deputy chair of the Finance and Expenditure Committee, a plum assignment for a new backbencher, his focus is just as much on the electorate he is trying to win, Hutt South.

He was one of four backbenchers with Todd Muller, Alfred Ngaro and Mark Mitchell, who spent a month in Northland bolstering National’s campaign in the by-election.

And that experience taught him that local mattered in politics.

Unfortunately for him Hutt South is held by Trevor Mallard whose roots in that community are deep and who is a high profile local MP.

But though Mr Bishop is only a list MP he operates and campaigns as though he is the actual MP for Hutt South.

I get Chris’ weekly Hutt newsletter. I’m amazed by how much work he is doing there, and just as a List MP. He has organised youth awards, got behind local issues, lobbied the Council, visited almost every business and community group and regularly brings Ministers into the electorate. It’s a role model for what a List MP should do to try and become the Electorate MP.

“I started door knocking in February last year and I’m going to continue doing that.

Just three months after the election.

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